Bacayú (Light of Day)
Color Photogravure
Maroya (Moon)
Color Photogravure
Untitled [Guanaroca, (First Woman)]
Color Photogravure
Color Photogravure
Guacar (Our Menstruation)
Color Photogravure
Guabancex (Goddess of the Wind)
Color Photogravure
Itiba Cahubaba (Old Mother Blood)
Color Photogravure
Installation View (Right Wall)
Photo: Ken Goebel, Wave Hill, Bronx
Installation View
The Center for Book Arts, New York
Maroya (Moon)
Printing Process
Cueva del Aguila, Cave of the Eagle
Las Escaleras de Jaruco
Drawn Map by Santiago Fonseca
Site of the Rupestrian Sculptures

Mythologies of Return

Mythologies of Return: Revisiting Ana Mendieta's Rupestrian Sculptures (Working Title)

Artist Book in Progress
Thanks to the generous support of The Center for Book Arts in New York.

In the summer of 1981, Ana Mendieta returned to Cuba for the first time after a long period of exile to reconnect with her ancestry and identity, leaving her mark at Las Escaleras de Jaruco, a national park outside Havana. Inside the limestone walls of the caves, she carved silhouettes of Taíno (indigenous) divinities, individually naming them Iyare (Mother), Maroya (Moon), Guanaroca (The First Woman), Bacayú (Light of the Day), among others, and collectively gathering them under the title, Rupestrian Sculptures Series.

In January and June of 2012, as part of my research, I traveled to Cuba with my collaborator Adriana Méndez Rodenas to document and study the carvings Mendieta had made in 1981. Mendieta photographed these works intending to publish a book of etchings titled Rupestrian Sculptures Series (transcription of artist’s notes, Clearwater 39-41); an artist’s book that would draw in the viewer to experience the same intensity elicited by the original site. José Juan Arrom, then professor of anthropology at Yale and author of (Mythology and Arts of the Prehispanic Antilles) (1975), a work which deeply influenced Mendieta, was to write the preface.

Due to her untimely death in 1985, Mendieta did not finish the project. She completed only five of the twelve sets of photo etchings she had originally conceived, and signed only one of the completed portfolios, now held at the Art Institute of Chicago. Galerie Lelong then hired Liliana Porter to print the rest in 1993, what was followed by Clearwater’s facsimile edition, Ana Mendieta--A Book of Works (1993). By recreating Taíno mythology and symbolism, she wanted to achieve a close collaboration—almost a conversation—between these past ancestors and her own experience of migration and diaspora.

As part of the Bronx Calling: The Second AIM Biennial 2013, I'm showing seven photogravures based on Ana Mendieta’s Rupestrian Sculptures presented as seven loose pages of an artist’s book. The artist’s book consists of two parts: an artistic section based on the photo-etchings of Mendieta’s series as they were photographed in 2012, thirty years after their original conception and a scholarly preface written by Adriana Méndez Rodenas, professor in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese at the University of Iowa, interpreting Taíno myths and archeology which inspired the original works made by Ana Mendieta in 1981.

This text was excerpted from The Obermann Center Interdisciplinary Research Grant Proposal.